Navigating the World as an African Non-Binary Drag King

Navigating the World as an African Non-Binary Drag King
Photograph by @your.rougephotography

Conversations about gender and sexuality are becoming increasingly common as more queer stories are being portrayed through mainstream media. Representation is so fucking important. I say that from the perspective of an African genderqueer person who never saw themselves represented in anything. I am 26 years old, and it wasn’t until three years ago that I started feeling free enough to openly explore my own identity. I had a lot of internalized homophobia and fear that was instilled in me through my cultural upbringing. That struggle of navigating the world feeling invisible, silenced, and isolated is one that has shaped me into the person I am today; which is an incredibly open, unapologetically queer individual.

A majority of my childhood was spent in Kenya, where I was raised with the rigid ideals and beliefs that are prevalent in most African cultures. The only conversations that went on in our household were ones surrounding the importance of education. In the eyes of my parents, my value was based on my academic success, and how much financial success I could acquire in my lifetime. That was completely understandable though, because we lived in a poverty stricken area and hard work was the only thing they knew. Emotional and social development was not something that was on their radar, and the older I get the more I understood why. They couldn’t teach me what they weren’t taught.

I moved to the United States when I was 10 years old, and it is here that I truly saw what freedom looked like, relatively speaking. I went from attending a private school in Nairobi, Kenya, where we wore uniforms and had strict guidelines on how to present (all based on the gender binary of course) to attending an American school that allowed me to dress as I wanted. I went from mandatory haircuts, to wearing my hair in whatever style I desired. I could paint my nails now and not get sent home for it. All the things that were the “norm” to the other children were foreign concepts in my world. The idea of being a free-minded being with the liberty to make choices was very unfamiliar to me.

As most people in the LGBTQIA+ community, I realized I was “different” fairly early in life. I rocked a low cut all throughout my childhood years, my voice was deeper than most of the other little girls, and I dressed in “boy” clothes, so everyone just assumed I was a boy. It also didn’t help that I only played with the boys and I preferred sports over whatever else the girls were playing. My parents just dismissed this as me being a tomboy, but once we got to the United States, where the gender norms were much more enforced, I quickly realized that none of these assigned labels and characteristics fit me. At the time, I did not have the language or self awareness to describe myself because I knew nothing outside of the very controlled environment that my parents had created for me. High school was a big turning point in my gender exploration journey. I was masculine of center and I presented as such, which translated to “total lesbian” to everyone I came across. I allowed that label to define me for a few years even though I knew that it didn’t quite fit me. I forgot that I had the power of choice and I let others tell me who I was.

Fast forward to 2016, when I started seeing a therapist and addressing issues that I silently held in all my life. Theoretically speaking, my therapist held up a big mirror in front of me and once I saw my reflection, I slowly came to the realization that I was sitting in the passenger seat of my own life. She taught me how to reclaim my power and how to take control of that steering wheel. Part of reclaiming my power was finding spaces that gave me the freedom to be myself without the fear of judgement. The world of drag was the first place to welcome me with open arms. This is where I learned about the beauty of gender expression and this is where I learned about the complexities of the many identities that exist in the LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of belonging. I met a group of people that were living their lives freely and openly, despite the odds that were stacked up against them. Once I built up the courage to start performing with them, parts of myself that had been suppressed for so long came to light, and I fell in love with them all.

As I explored my body, my identity, and my expression, I finally started to find the language that described the feelings I’ve had all my life. I am non-binary. Being a drag king has opened up this endless world of possibilities for me. My rebirth came after I created my king persona, “Majic Dyke.” Majic is the “King of Beards and Titties” and his genderbending style of performance has gained quite a following through social media. I’m blessed to say that I’ve performed in multiple cities around the country and internationally. My creative and spiritual rebirth emerged after years of tribulations, denial, and finally facing truths.

The latest mantra I have been drawn to is “​There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you” by Maya Angelou. My life purpose, at this point in my journey, is to empower and uplift those that don’t feel seen/heard, and to remind them that they are powerful beyond measure.

This story was shared by Majic Dyke: The King of Beards and Titties

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